Inspired by the men’s Autumn style guide on the Marks and Spencer website, I arranged to meet up with one of the store managers to have a chat about M&S fashion, its in-store visual merchandising, their various collections, and of course David Gandy got a mention!
I didn’t really have a brief before I arrived in store, other than that I had been inspired by the great style guide on their website and I wanted to see and find out more about how to put a look together and how they inspire customers in store. I was also curious about their target customer and if the inspiring looks on their site was actually enticing younger guys into the store.
The latest campaign featuring one of the top male models, David Gandy, is key to their new direction in menswear and with his involvement the company have significantly raised interest (as well as eyebrows) for their fashion.
Arriving in the Belfast store it’s immediately noticeable that David (yep, first name terms!) is everywhere, enticing shoppers to buy. Interestingly, I was told that historically lot of their menswear was bought by women, but that’s changing, and fast, as more and more guys are taking control of their look, and about time too!
In recent years M&S have developed a number of different collections, Autograph, Blue Harbour, Collezione, M&S Collection and North Coast, all with their own style and inspiration and all with their own style of shop fit, all helping to make the store look like a proper department store with different brands/concessions on display.
As for displaying the fashion and inspiring the customer to purchase, there is a very subtle element of up-selling happening, but that’s just part of retailing in the 21st century. A business wouldn’t survive without creating that shopping environment that makes you spend more than you had originally planned. For M&S it’s all about creating a complete look, place a mannequin in front of a display rail, wearing a perfectly styled outfit, with the same clothes hanging on the rail. And the clothes are on the rail in a very specific order, from the outside in. At the front, you’ll find the outer layer, the jacket, blazer or jumper, followed by the trousers or jeans, then the layers, a shirt, a t-shirt and an alternative shirt at the back. The idea is you see the mannequin, you buy the complete look. Perfect! Guys in particular are embracing this and I understand that the average menswear spend is more than in womenswear. The men come in and buy the complete look, whereas ladies buy a piece at a time.
M&S never claim to be trendsetters but in their menswear they are following the trends more than ever. I spotted some great slim fit two button suits on mannequins with the on-trend pocket squares and wearing that most classic of shoes, brogues (One tip: get some coloured laces on those brogues M&S). I spotted a super on-trend Harris Tweed collection of wash bags, man bags and wallets. These are classic but very fashionable men’s pieces.
Elsewhere in store is the extensive Denim section with a lot of double denim happening, and right beside it is the very Abercrombie/Hollister inspired North Coast and Blue Harbour. The brief for this season for the merchandising in these sections is ‘back to university’, and it’s spot on. Double layered polo t-shirts, rugby shirts, funky scarves, brogue boots. I nearly want to pretend I’m back at Uni….oops, I never actually went in the first place!
Clearly menswear is improving in M&S, and with the help of the stylish images from the M&S Autumn Style Guide, this middle-aged guy who still feels like a twentysomething and who continues to try and keep a bit of style and a bit of trend going on, is inspired!!
By Jeff Meredith